Christine Lagarde: Communication and monetary policy

Speech by Ms Christine Lagarde, President of the European Central Bank, at the Distinguished Speakers Seminar, organised by the European Economics and Financial Centre, London, 4 September 2023. 

The views expressed in this speech are those of the speaker and not the view of the BIS.

Central bank speech  | 
05 September 2023

We find ourselves in a world marked by substantial volatility. In recent years, a series of unprecedented crises have profoundly affected people and their everyday lives. To steer the economy through these challenging times, policymakers need to manage people's expectations – not only about inflation, but also about climate policies, geopolitical shifts and many other areas.

In this respect, communication plays a vital role in the art of effective policymaking today, and this is especially true for central banks like the ECB. But several changes in the media landscape – from new technologies to the rising tide of fake news – have made it increasingly difficult for policymakers to "cut through" to the wider public.

In other words, just as the need for effective communication has grown, so too has the difficulty for policymakers to make their voices heard. This is a problem that we cannot afford to ignore. As Ludwig Wittgenstein once observed, "the limits of my language mean the limits of my world".[1]

So how can policymakers break through those limits when communicating with the wider public? In short: when the world changes, we must change with it. The way we communicate needs to reflect the new environment in which we are operating.

I will discuss the communication challenges we face today, the communication dimension of monetary policy, and propose how we can improve our communication by being more accessible and humbler.